We had spent ages looking for the most suitable back-office system for our firm. We were 5 advisers and about the same in support so wanted something that would function well across a network. We wanted something that was easy to use, did all the usual stuff for us and – crucially – interacted with our procedure of scanning all documents . We wanted to partner with experienced folks, who were developing into the future of our industry, with clout and likely to be sticking around but not distracted by other projects.
We had looked very closely at the Positive Solutions model – excellent software, now “True Potential” (there’s also a version developed by part of the PS team as “2Plan”) – but didn’t want to join a national IFA. We wanted to be able to access the system from homes and other locations, if possible, too. We looked pretty widely and, although we may have missed some options, finally made a choice in Autumn 2005 amongst the usual suspects: 1st Software, Quay, Intelliflo, Plum and CCL.
We spent tens of thousands of pounds on implementation and training plus many hundreds every month on the licences for most of the team. We chose to have it hosted remotely and the data backed-up for us and we had lots of connections into Providers’ owns systems to update fund values etc.
What we found was that we had to “do” a lot of work to produce a simple letter to a client, that our own data was actually not very good, so we didn’t get much useful information from the system and, with the advent of RMAR, we had to do a lot of stuff outside the system to get the reports done. Ultimately after 2 years, we sacked the system, extracted the data we could and set off on a new search – poorer but wiser!
When I met Simon and Martin from Switch-on-Solutions at the Autumn 2007 Adviser Expo in Manchester, I was excited. Martin Andrews was an IFA like me and had been through a similar experience to me (but with different software) so he got his brother Simon to put something together that just does what he wants. It was so effective – and cost-effective – that he let a few others use it (for a fee) and decided to extend that.
I believe we were about the twelfth user, when we started with Freedom last December. My team – from Accounts to admin to IFAs – were dead impressed because the simple jobs are simple to do, Freedom links straight to the folders of scanned documents and you can get reports of things you want, looking the way you want them, from any data you’ve input. What’s even nicer – it costs a quarter of what I was paying for the other system – and that includes a weekly data-feed to update fund prices on clients’ holdings.
Let’s be fair – it’s not Intelliflo or True Potential but it saves me £600 a month and gives us vastly more than a quarter the value of the other system. If I have a question or a need (like flagging clients, who are currently contracted-out of S2P, on the front of their pension) I can ask Simon – the man himself – and he’ll put it in the next release because he can see its benefit and he can choose to do it.
We continue to work on our data – 16 years of history from 3 of the IFA team takes a while – and keep finding other things that Freedom does for us (like a simple, central contact database for Providers, phone and fax numbers – with hyper-links to web pages and email addresses! That’s a big help to be able to tell new staff where to look). As we build our database of funds invested, being able to see the value grow and sort it easily by fund (for when a manager leaves etc) we find more and more value.
I commend the Freedom system from Switch-on-Solutions to any IFA – from one-person to medium-sized.
Eden Whittaker BA(Hons) CertPFS CeMAP CeRER Whittaker Financial Solutions Limited